Is That Me? ~ March 4, 2018 ~ Mark 1:16-20
We are in Mark this morning. I chose Mark for a reason. A couple weeks back, or a week or so ago, I can’t remember exactly, I was mentioning how extraordinarily ordinary the disciples were. Remember? I mean, so many times we read in Scripture that they just don’t get it. They don’t understand what Jesus is saying, even though he explains it quite clearly. They don’t get what he’s doing, why he has to do the things that he does. They are, in many ways, so amazingly clueless, and I love that! Because that’s us. Right? We are no different than the disciples. It is not in Scripture anywhere, we came up with the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways.” That’s not in here, right? But we came up with that phrase because we don’t understand. We don’t get it. God really doesn’t work in mysterious ways. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knew thousands of years ago everything that was going to happen to you today. So he knows exactly what he’s doing. We don’t get it sometimes, and in that way, we are just like the disciples. So, what I thought we’d do over the next three weeks leading up to Easter, we’re going to look at some of the disciples. And I want you to ask yourself, do you see yourself in any of them? Any of these disciples that we’re going to mention. I want you to ask yourself as we talk about these guys, “Is that me?” If so, which one and why? You don’t have to tell me, but answer that for yourself. We’re going to begin this morning with Andrew and Simon, or Peter. And the story begins in the gospel of Mark, first chapter, 16th verse. So, let us pray as we get ready to study the word of God: Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that they may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Mark, chapter 1, 16th verse: One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. I’m going to pause here for a minute. First of all, this is not the first time that Andrew has met Jesus. It’s the first one that Mark mentions in his gospel, but Andrew has met Jesus before. In John, first chapter, John records a story of when Jesus was down at the Jordan River, and John the Baptist was baptizing him.
John the Baptist had disciples as well, people that were following him. And in John 1 verse 35 it says, John was standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and [said to his two disciples], “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples heard this, they [left John and] followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. So Andrew met Jesus at the Jordan River, when Jesus was being baptized. Then John tells us, Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means”Christ”). So Andrew was the very first disciple. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s anything special or any better than the rest of them, but it will make you a killer at Trivial Pursuit if that question ever comes up. Who was the first disciple ever? Andrew. And he’s excited. And he goes back to tell his brother, Simon. He finds his brother Simon. Simon and Andrew were fisherman. So Andrew comes back, he sees Simon, he joins in with whatever Simon was doing and tells him all about Jesus.
Is that me? Am I Andrew? When you first met Jesus, were you so excited that you couldn’t wait to tell someone? I hope so. Because we are passionate people, we really are. We get passionate about a lot of things. Like the Superbowl, right?
Regardless of what side you are routing for, we get passionate. Sometimes, a little bit uncomfortably so. Sometimes to the point where when a player on the opposing team gets injured, we’re cheering. We get so passionate, there are some people who profess to be Christians who are releasing such vitriol and language, I was stunned! I’m passionate about my Jets. I’ve been waiting since 1969 to win another Superbowl. But the funny thing is, last year, when the Patriots won, Monday morning my life hadn’t changed one bit. This year, when the Patriots lost, Monday morning my life hadn’t changed one iota. If and when the Jets ever do win again, Monday morning, my life wouldn’t have changed in the least.
Are we as enthusiastic, are we as excited, are we as passionate about something or someone who does change my life? Why is that? Why is it I will tell everyone that I’m a Patriots fan or a Giants fan or a Red Sox fan or a Yankees fan, but none of them know I’m a Christian. So is that me? Am I Andrew? Am I so excited about the Lord that I have all kinds of apparel, gifts, not gifts, little trinkets? Do I have a sticker on my car? Does everybody know?
How about Simon Peter? Peter was raised in the village of Bethsaida in Galilee. Bethsaida is Hebrew, translates as “house of fish,” which makes sense, because he and Andrew both had a fishing business. Now their business was in Capernum, about six miles away, and it is likely that Peter and Andrew were business partners with James and John. Chances are all four of them were in this business together. Fishing was hard work. Today, in the 21st century when we think of fishing – at least when I think of fishing – I think of riding around in a little bass boat, leaning back on my lean stool and casting out. It’s not a lot of hard work. This is not the kind of fishing that they’re talking about. Fishing back then there was a net woven from rope that was big, and around it’s circumference every so often were weighted weights, heavy weights, that you took, you held it just right and you took the net and you tossed it into the ocean, and it hit the water and the lead weights would make it sink quicker. It would be like a balloon kind of a thing, and hopefully you’d catch fish on the inside. And then you’d pull that net to shore. That was heavy. That was hard work. And you had to cast and retrieve, and cast and retrieve, because you know as well as I the reason they call it “fishing” and not “catching” is that you do a lot more fishing than you do catching.
So to be a fisherman you had to have patience. You have to have perseverance. You have to be willing to do this over and over and over again. How many times do we read in the Scriptures that they’re out all night and they caught nothing? You had to have an attitude of perseverance. Fisherman had to get used to failure. Interesting. Strength. Patience. Perseverance. Those are all very good characteristics to have as a disciple of Christ. Because how many times do you cast your net when you’re fishing for people and you come back with nothing. Look, I’ve been here twelve years now, and for twelve years, every week, several times during the week, somebody buzzes the buzzer at the door, right Lauren? And I go out and I talk to them, and I offer what I can, I help if I can help, I’ll pray with them if they’ll allow me. But I cast my net every time I answer the door. And some of these guys, mostly guys, I’ve been casting my net on for twelve years. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “I’ll see you on Sunday, pastor!” “OK!” And I pull back that net and it’s empty. You gotta have patience. You gotta have perseverance. It is hard work when you’re fishing for people. That’s why I believe God chose fisherman.
Now, James and John and Peter and Andrew, they had built up a pretty successful business. How do we know this? The folks in my Bible study on Wednesday nights will know that every time I read the news and there’s an archaeological article, right, I bring it in. We just talked about they found Isaiah – the prophet Isaiah’s – seal just recently. But they have, over the years in the last decade, they have excavated what they believe to be Peter’s house in Bethsaida. And based upon what they could find, it wasn’t a shack! Right? It was middle class to upper middle class. Peter and Andrew and James and John – they were doing ok! It was a relatively successful fishing business. They had worked hard to build this up. Physically hard. I imagine, after all that, it had to be tough to walk away, wouldn’t it? You work for something so hard your whole life, you finally get to a place where you can be somewhat comfortable, at least you know every week you can put food on the table for your family, you know, hunger is not an issue. You’re not wearing rags. You can pay your bills now. Anybody who owns their own business will know that sometimes it’s tough to pay bills. So they were doing ok, and yet, what happened? Jesus called out to them and said, “Come and follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people.” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
Is that me? Am I Simon Peter? Am I willing to walk away from a solid career, a successful career if that career takes so much out of me that there’s no time left for God. There’s no time left for church. Is earning that raise or getting that next promotion more important to me than helping in my child’s Sunday School class? Because let me tell you, they notice that. Is it really that important to buy my daughter a new iPad, or that she see her mom and dad in church praising God? Serving in our community together as a family? I’m telling you, one of the things you do acquire as you get older is experience. And you know what experience is? A history of mistakes. Because that’s what you learn from. You learn from your mistakes. And when you’ve been around going on fifty-five years – I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But I have some wisdom from those mistakes and I’m telling you right now, she will not remember that iPad. She will remember that you volunteered in her Sunday School class. That you slept over with youth group sleepover. That you brought her and her brother and her sister together as a family to Sparrow on Saturday morning and you fed the hungry in your community. That, she’ll remember. Not the next raise, not the next promotion. They walked away from a successful business. Peter left his nets and began following Christ.
Is that me? Verse 19: A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. Now, James and John were obviously brothers, and it says right here that their father was Zebedee, not Joseph, so this James here is not Jesus’ brother James, who wrote the book of James in the Bible. But this John here, Zebedee’s son is the John that wrote the gospel of John, first, second and third John, and Revelation, the John that was at the Last Supper who reclined his head on Jesus’ breast. This is the John we’re talking about here. So James and John: what do we know about these guys? Well, we know they were business partners with Andrew and Simon Peter. We also know that later, Jesus gives them a nickname. He calls them Boanerges, which translates as Sons of Thunder, which I always thought would be a wicked cool name for a metal band. Yeah! Sons of Thunder!
Anyway, we know that about them because Jesus gives them that nickname. Why does he give them that nickname? Perhaps, I put this out there as a suggestion: In Luke 9, chapter 9 verse 51 there’s a story of Jesus heading for Jerusalem. As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. We’ve talked all about the Samaritans recently, so you know this is not the kind of village that is right on the same page as their other Jews. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven and burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. He said, “Chill, Boanerges.” So they went on to another village.
I mean, I don’t know, is that me? Do I have a tendency to explode every so often? Am I, as Foreigner so well put it, “hot blooded?” What do you think was going through their minds? How do you think they really wanted to react when they saw both of their business partners, whom they have partnered with and worked so hard to build up a successful business, just drop everything and start following Jesus? I wonder how they wanted to react. We actually don’t even know how they react, we have Mark’s version of how they react. He may have tamped it down a little, we don’t know.
There’s an interesting point, though, here, that I also don’t want to go too quickly past. In verse 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” You know, in the old testament, all of the prophets, they always said to people, “Follow God.” “Follow God, follow God, follow God.” Jesus does not say “follow God.” What does he say? “Follow ME.” Interesting! Is he kind of saying there that me is… yeah!
Anyway, he says “Follow me and I will show you how to fish for people.” So here you are, you’re fixing your boat, because it’s your business and you want to make some money that day, and out of the corner of your eye you see your two partners, you watch them as they just drop everything and walk away. What do you do? You drop your tools and leave your father standing in the boat with his mouth wide open and leave too, right? That’s what they did. Is that me? Is Jesus more important to me than anything else, including family? I mean, they left dad in the boat just kind of going ? as the four of them walk away. Is Jesus more important to me than even my family? This is a very difficult teaching if you don’t understand completely what it means, which is why you come to church! To learn stuff! And why you come to Bible study on Wednesday nights at 6:30. To learn stuff! There’s a teaching in Matthew: Jesus is just getting ready to send out the disciples, his 72 disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations, preach the good news, yada yada yada. And he says to them, he gives them a little bit of a warning in chapter 10 verse 37, he says look guys, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross, if you refuse to face whatever issue is in front of you and follow me, if that problem is bigger than anything else, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, if it’s all about you, you will lose it, but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” When I first read that, for years it stunned me. I didn’t know how to react. I mean, for those of you who have had children, you know, when my sons were born, there was no carbon based life form on the planet that you could love more. And some of you might be thinking, “Oh, yeah, but if I love my children more than anything else, God will respect that.” No. No! God is saying if you love your family more than me, you’re not worthy of being mine. What does he mean? He means that if you put Jesus first in your life, above everything and everybody, you know what happens? You start loving like him. You start serving like him. You start forgiving like him. And if Christ is first in your life you will never be a better husband, a better father, a better wife, a better daughter, a better son. You will never be better if Christ is first. If you are the kind of mother that has Christ first in her life, your children are blessed. So he says, even your family, if you love them more than me, you’re not worthy of being mine. If Jesus is first in your life it will show in your relationships with your spouse, with your children, with your friends. After all, you were more important to him than his family, than his son.
Is that me? Am I James, or John? Now, I know there is a tendency to elevate disciples to superhero status. You know, if you look at some of the paintings from the Renaissance or from the Middle Age period, you see, all their disciples always have this halo around their head. You can always identify the disciples because they’re glowing with this little hat thing going on, right?
Saint Peter, Saint Andrew, Saint James, Saint John – you know what? That really is more us than it is them. The word “saint” comes from the Greek word Haggios, which means “consecrated to God,” or “set apart,” or “dedicated to God.” And it is almost always used in the plural, as in “saints.” When Ananias talks about Paul in Acts chapter nine he says to God, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he did to your saints at Jerusalem.” In verse 32 we read when Peter was traveling through the regions he came down also to the “saints” who lived at Lydda. Paul says in Acts 26:10, “and this is just what I did in Jerusalem, not only did I lock up many of the ‘saints’ in prisons…” See the word Haggios really means a group of people set apart for the Lord and his kingdom. A group of people set apart, dedicated to the Lord for use in his kingdom. A group of people dedicated to the Lord. You see, in the early church, when you talked about the people who belonged to the church, that was the word you used. In the King James version, a lot of the letters begin “To the Saints at Ephesus,” “To the Saints in Colossae,” “To the Saints in Galatia.” They were just talking about believers! People who were following Christ. So that was the initial meaning of Haggios, we have elevated it into “Oh my gosh, you’re a saint! You’re special! You’re something beyond the normal.” No. That’s not it. Which is why, which is another reason why I love the New Living Translation, the one that we read here. When they translate the word Haggios they don’t translate it as saints, they translate it as Holy People, because that’s more accurate, that’s the intention of the biblical writer. These guys were not superheroes. They were fisherman. Which means they were probably colorful in their language, they were not well educated, they were rough around the edges. I mean, have you ever seen that show “The Deadliest Catch,” where they’re fishing for the Alaskan King Crab off the Alaskan waters? Those guys are pretty rough, right? Those are the kinds of folks Jesus was after! You notice that Jesus didn’t choose a general, a military commander. He didn’t choose a priest. He didn’t choose a prince, or a king. He didn’t choose a professor, a doctor, a lawyer, or a celebrity. Why do you think that is? Now, there’s nothing wrong with doctors, lawyers and generals, for sure. They can and do serve God as well. Luke was a physician. In 2 Samuel there’s a list, David lists 37 warriors for God. So God can use them too. But why did Jesus originally call fisherman? I believe to make the point that he can use, and does use, everyday folks like fisherman, and you, and me, to do amazing things for the kingdom of God. Alright? Jesus doesn’t qualify the equipped, he equips the qualified. He gives you those characteristics, those gifts that you need, that you lack, to fulfill whatever he has in store for you.
So, is that me? Am I Andrew? Am I Simon Peter? Am I James? Am I John? Have you seen yourself yet? Maybe you are more like Philip or Bartholomew. I don’t know, you’ll have to come back next week and find out! Would you pray with me please?